China and Russia on Monday clashed with the US and other UN Security Council members over China’s insistence on including a reference to Beijing’s US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative in a resolution on the UN political mission in Afghanistan.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) six-month mandate was due to expire yesterday and council members met behind closed doors for more than two-and-a-half hours, unable to agree on a text because of China’s demand.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, the current council president, told reporters afterward that diplomats were working on a new text and “we’re in the process of reaching a compromise.”
He said the council would meet again yesterday morning in hopes of reaching unanimous agreement.
It is the second time in six months that the resolution to keep UNAMA operating has become embroiled in controversy over “Belt and Road” language.
Resolutions extending UNAMA’s mandate for a year in 2016, 2017 and last year had language welcoming and urging further efforts to strengthen regional economic cooperation involving Afghanistan, including through the Belt and Road Initiative.
However, in March, when the mandate renewal came up, US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen — and other Western council members — objected.
He slammed China for holding “the resolution hostage” by insisting on making the resolution “about Chinese national political priorities rather than the people of Afghanistan.”
US President Donald Trump’s administration opposed China’s demand “that the resolution highlight its Belt and Road Initiative, despite its tenuous ties to Afghanistan and known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage and lack of transparency,” Cohen said.
Chinese Deputy Ambassador to the UN Wu Haitao (吳海濤), countered at the time that one council member — almost certainly referring to the US — “poisoned the atmosphere.”
He said the initiative was “conducive to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development.”
The result of the standoff was that instead of a one-year mandate renewal for UNAMA, the mandate was renewed in March for just six months in a simple text, without any substance.
At a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan last week, Cohen referred to the continuing impasse with China.
“We strongly believe this mandate is too important at this moment to have one Security Council member deny consensus for reasons having nothing to do with UNAMA,” Cohen said.
Ahead of this month’s mandate expiration, Germany and Indonesia drafted a substantive resolution that would extend the mandate for a year. It focused on UN support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled peace process, UN assistance in the presidential election on Saturday next week and strong backing for Afghan security forces “in their fight against terrorism.”
It made no reference to the initiative.
So China and Russia circulated a rival draft that removes all the substantive language and simply extends the mission for a year.
Council diplomats said after Monday’s meeting that China and Russia would likely veto the German-Indonesian draft, and the China-Russia draft would fail to get the required nine “yes” votes, so diplomats met on Monday night to draft a new resolution.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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