Thank you, Mr. President. Secretary-General Guterres, thank you for your sobering briefing and for your strong statement. Your role – along with your Personal Envoy Jean Arnault and Special Representative Lyons and her team on the ground – is especially vital now, and as we enter an uncertain and crucial period that requires the international community to speak with a clear and unified voice.
The United States deeply appreciates the continued efforts of UNAMA and other UN actors on the ground in Afghanistan that are continuing to provide life-saving assistance to Afghans in need. We also thank Norway and Estonia for calling this meeting and India for convening it, given the events of the past 72 hours and we welcome the participation of Afghanistan to this meeting.
Over this past weekend, members of the international community joined together to state unequivocally that every Afghan should be able to live in safety, security, and dignity. We also called on all parties in Afghanistan to ensure safe departures and the protection of human life and property.
Today, I want to reiterate, reemphasize, and reassert this call: civilian populations, including journalists and noncombatants, must be protected. Attacks against civilians or civilian objects must stop. And the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghan citizens – especially women, girls, and members of minority groups – must be respected. We also call on all parties to prevent terrorism, and we must all ensure Afghanistan cannot ever, ever again be a base for terrorism.
We also call on the Taliban to permit humanitarian organizations to continue their vital work in Afghanistan. In addition to the ongoing violence, the Afghan people are suffering acutely from the effects of COVID-19 and drought. These urgent humanitarian needs must remain top of mind for all of us in the coming hours, days, and weeks, and beyond. Humanitarian personnel and agencies must have safe, unhindered access to provide life-saving assistance to the increasing numbers of Afghans in need. We are deeply concerned that right now, aid is not flowing to people in crisis.
According to the World Food Program, more than 500 tons of aid are currently sitting at border crossings taken over by Taliban forces. These aid deliveries must remain, must resume immediately, and the World Food Program must have immediate and sustained safe passage to deliver this much-needed assistance.
Finally, and critically, all Afghan nationals and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so safely. President Biden has made clear that any action that put U.S. personnel or our mission at risk will be met with a swift and strong military response. The United States promises to be generous in resettling Afghans in our own country. And I am heartened by the pledges we’ve seen from other nations to do the same. We need to all do more, and the time to step up is now.
We urge Afghanistan’s neighbors, and others in the region and beyond, to give refuge – be it temporary or permanent – to Afghans attempting to flee. And together, we must do everything we can to help Afghanistan, to help Afghans who wish to leave and seek refuge.
I will close where I began: the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security, and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.
Thank you very much.