Statement delivered by Italy at the Security Council Open Debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Building regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model to link security and development” —
At the outset, I wish to congratulate Kazakhstan on assuming the Presidency of the Security Council and to convey our deep appreciation for having convened this timely and important meeting. We also welcome the adoption of a Presidential Statement on this occasion.
Italy aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union.
As the title of today’s meeting indicates, regional partnerships play a primary role in addressing the security and development challenges currently facing Afghanistan.
The countries and peoples of Central Asia share a common history of rich and interdependent relations in the political, cultural and economic domains, with Afghanistan at its core – the ‘Heart of Asia’ in the true sense of the term.
The same is true today, where the complex patchwork of transnational threats, challenges and opportunities facing the Central Asian region have a direct impact on the situation in Afghanistan and on the prospects for long-term stabilization and development.
I would like to address three main aspects. First, threats to security from terrorist and violent extremist groups operating in Afghanistan. In the framework of the NATO-led ‘Resolute Support’ mission, Italy continues to stand side by side with our Afghan partners in order to enhance the capabilities of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF).
At the same time, there is a need for a broader strategy that adequately addresses the complex and transnational nature of the terrorist phenomenon. A constructive role of all regional neighbors and stakeholders is essential in countering the threat of terrorism and violent extremism, including by denying these groups any form of safe havens. The next meeting of the Kabul Process, which we fully support, can also provide the necessary political momentum to these common efforts, which must be accompanied by a renewed commitment to making progress on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
Second, the threat of terrorism and its sources of financing is also intimately linked to the issue of drug trafficking. We are acutely concerned by the latest developments, as reflected in the recent 2017 UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey, which notes a dramatic, record-high increase in opium cultivation.
Recognizing the need for an integrated, transnational approach in effectively reducing the illicit production and trafficking of drugs, Italy supports initiatives such as the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries and in this framework we also engaged in a successful triangular cooperation with Afghanistan and Iran in order to enhance the capabilities of Afghan police officers in the field of counter-narcotics.
Third, regional integration and economic development. We strongly support the National Unity Government’s vision for Afghanistan as a crossroads for trade and infrastructure in Central Asia. Interconnectivity is key to achieve sustained growth and development in Afghanistan and in the region. Italy is therefore proud of its long-term commitment to making this vision a reality, channeling a great part of its longstanding civilian assistance to Afghanistan to the financing of strategic transport and communication infrastructure projects, in particular in the Western region of the country.
Regional mechanisms and organizations can play a crucial role in all these areas and provide a platform to develop regional capacities and build mutual confidence. For instance, the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia is facilitating the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action for the implementation in Central Asia of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy, it is providing targeted institutional capacity building and promoting dialogue on issues of common concern, like the management of natural resources and environmental degradation. Italy strongly supports these efforts.
Emphasizing the inherently linked and mutually reinforcing nature of security and development, I wish to conclude by reiterating the need for a comprehensive approach to the stabilization and prosperity of the region. Increased regional and international cooperation as well as a coherent and coordinated action by the UN system will be essential to support the efforts of Afghanistan and the Central Asian Countries toward a more stable, integrated and resilient region.