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'We need enormous effort': Coveney leads UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan in New York

The foreign affairs minister visited the 9/11 memorial earlier today.

Image: United Nations Web TV

Updated Sep 9th 2021, 9:40 PM

THE MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs is chairing a United Nations Security Council meeting on Afghanistan in New York this evening.

Under Simon Coveney’s chairship, the Council has voted to approve a resolution on peacekeeping brought forward by Ireland.

The resolution focuses on transitioning from UN peace missions to a UN civilian presence that supports peacebuilding in post-conflict environments. 

Now, the live debate on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is focusing on the recent events in the country and the renewal of the UNAMA mandate, which determines the mission’s role in trying to promote stability.

The mandate is due to expire on 17 September. The security council meeting is part of Ireland’s presidency of the council.

Speaking to the Council, Coveney said that “millions of Afghans require urgent support, including those recently displaced by conflict, violence and intimidation”.

“Collectively, we can avert a humanitarian tragedy in Afghanistan, but it will take an enormous effort,” the minister said.

“I urge the Taliban to facilitate full safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian organisations, and all of their personnel, regardless of gender,” he said.

“They should be able to carry out their life saving and life sustaining work without interference or fear.

“To ensure this access, and the right of Afghans and foreign citizens to leave Afghanistan, it is vital that Kabul airport and Afghanistan’s land borders are fully open and operational.”

Speakers presenting to the Council include activists Malala Yousafzai and Wazhma Frogh and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons.

Lyons urged the world to keep money flowing into Afghanistan despite concerns over the Taliban government, warning the country could otherwise suffer a historic breakdown.

“A modus vivendi must be found — and quickly — that allows money to flow to Afghanistan to prevent a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” Lyons told the meeting.

The result would be “a severe economic downturn that could throw many more millions into poverty and hunger, may generate a massive wave of refugees from Afghanistan and indeed set Afghanistan back for generations.” 

Earlier today, Coveney visited the September 11 memorial ahead of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

SC at 911 Source: Irish Consulate in New York

“As President of the Security Council for the month of September, Ireland has a significant responsibility to steward the Council’s vital work,” Coveney said in a statement.

The minister said that the Council will “address a number of critical situations this month, including the situation in Afghanistan”.

“We continue to call for an inclusive, negotiated, political settlement in Afghanistan, and for the protection of the rights of women and girls,” he said.

Coveney’s trip to the United States comes amid political pressure at home in the wake of the controversy around the planned appointment of Katherine Zappone as a special envoy to the UN.

Simon Coveney met with UN Secretary General António Guterres yesterday ahead of today’s meeting, which will take place at 8pm Irish time. 

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Earlier this week, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Coveney cannot stay on in government due to his part in the controversy.

In a statement, McDonald reminded Taoiseach Micheál Martin that he is head of the government, not just the Fianna Fáil part of it, and added that if he is not willing to act, then Sinn Féin will. 

It is expected that such a threat could materialise in a motion of no-confidence in the minister when the Dáil resumes next week.

Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan both expressed confidence in Coveney.

With reporting by Lauren Boland and AFP

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Céimin Burke

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