UN Security Council condemns attacks on Afghan civilians

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council condemned deliberate attacks on civilians in Afghanistan and all instances of terrorism “in the strongest terms” on Tuesday, while declaring its opposition to restoration of rule by the Taliban.

In a press statement agreed by all 15 members, the U.N.’s most powerful body called on the Afghan government and the Taliban “to engage meaningfully in an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in order to make urgent progress towards a political settlement and a ceasefire.”

The Security Council expressed “deep concern” at the high levels of violence and reported serious human rights abuses in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s offensive. It urged an immediate reduction in violence.

The war between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government forces has intensified over the past few months as U.S. and NATO troops complete their pullout from the war-torn country. The Taliban are now trying to seize provincial capitals after already taking smaller administrative districts.

The council is expected to hold an open meeting Friday on the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

In the statement, the council condemned “in the strongest terms the deplorable attack against the United Nations compound” in western Herat on Friday that killed an Afghan security forces guard and injured several others.

Council members reiterated that all parties are required to protect civilians under international humanitarian law and that deliberate attacks targeting civilians and U.N. personnel and compounds “may constitute war crimes.” It said that “the urgent and imperative need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The council reaffirmed that “there is no military solution to the conflict” and stressed “the need for full, equal and meaningful participation of women” in peace negotiations.

Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to go to school, work outside the home or leave their house without a male escort. Though they still face many challenges in the country’s male-dominated society, Afghan women have increasingly stepped into powerful positions in numerous fields — and many fear the departure of international troops and a Taliban takeover could take away their gains.

Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

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