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In a big setback to China, its ‘Belt and Road’ project dropped from UNSC resolution on Afghanistan

China had threatened to veto the resolution if Belt and Road is not mentioned, but a compromise was reached

The United Nations Security Council on 17th September adopted a resolution to extend the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), rejecting China’s demand to include a reference to China’s “belt and road” initiative. China had warned that it will veto the resolution if the reference to its US$1 Trillion project is not included in the renewal of UN mandate for Afghanistan, but later agreed for a compromise, where the need for better regional cooperation and connectivity was included in the mandate.

The vote by 15-member Security Council to renew the UNAMA was scheduled for Monday, but it was postponed after China had threatened to veto if it didn’t mention the Chinese project.

UNAMA mandate is renewed annually and it was expiring on Tuesday. In the previous resolutions passed in 2016, 2017 and 2018 renewing the UN mission, reference welcoming efforts like China’s Belt and Road initiative to facilitate trade and transit was included.

But this time, the resolution drafted by Germany and Indonesia didn’t mention the Belt and Road project. The USA and other Western members of the UNSC favoured removal of that reference, sparking a standoff with China, one of five permanent members of the council with veto power.

With the deadline to renew the mandate fast approaching, negotiators worked through the night to arrive at a compromise and prepared a scaled-down resolution which was eventually adopted on 17th September 2019, extending the UNAMA for one more year.

Along with Belt and Road, the amended resolution also dropped references to professionalized Afghan security forces, the volatile security situation including the presence of the Islamic State extremist group and foreign fighters, and the increase of displaced people inside the country. It also dropped references about the upcoming elections in Afghanistan, the ongoing peach process, attacks on humanitarian workers, and the importance of women’s rights.

China also wanted to include a call for the foreign forces to leave Afghanistan in the resolution, but it was rejected. Eventually, the resolution was passed unanimously by the 15 members of the UNSC. To pass, the resolution was needed to get at least 9 votes, and no vetoes by the permanent members United States, China, France, Russian and UK.

US Ambassador Kelly Craft said that UNAMA would have had “a stronger substantive mandate” if not for the insistence of a member state, a clear reference to China. Britain and Belgium also agreed with that view.

Defending China’s position, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said that it is not the correct to time adopt a comprehensive resolution. Later Chinese minister Minister Counselor Yao Shaojun told media that it was not the right time for comprehensive resolution as Afghanistan presidential election is scheduled for September 28. He said that there are lots of uncertainties, including talks between US and Taliban.

The UN mission is helping Afghanistan prepare for the September 28 elections and is pushing for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The resolution passed yesterday authorises it to organise the elections and initiate reform process in government.

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