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    Press Release No:   UNIS/SC1204
    Release Date:   22 March 2000
    Security Council Holds Open Briefing on Situation in Tajikistan

    Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping
    Operations Briefs Council on Anticipated Withdrawal of UNMOT
     

    NEW YORK, 21 March (UN Headquarters) -- For the first time in the history of the newly independent Tajikistan, pluralistic multi-party elections had been held, signifying a further step towards democratization, the representative of that country told the Security Council this afternoon.  His remarks followed an open briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, acknowledging the anticipated withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in the country following the 15 May expiration of its mandate.

     The Tajik representative said the elections had been a victory for all voters.  The elections had cemented the achievements of the peace process and laid a firm foundation for the country’s sustainable development.  Hopefully, support would grow for the country's need for "all kinds" of international assistance.  In conjunction with the anticipated withdrawal of the United  Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), the Secretary-General should identify a future United Nations role, focusing on the needs of a country whose peace and stability depended on its socio-economic revival.

     The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Annabi, noted the significant inclusion of warring parties in the election process, as well as the holding of the country's first-ever multi-party election in an atmosphere free from violence.  Despite the significance of the elections, however, the election commission had failed to meet the minimum standards of transparency, and there had been widespread voting violations.  Nevertheless, the Tajik parties had overcome the obstacles of the transition period and placed their country on the path to national reconciliation.

     He said the successful completion of the transition period marked a significant achievement and the United Nations and UNMOT had played an important part.  At the same time, much remained to be done to consolidate national reconciliation.  The Tajik President had confirmed the need to establish a post- conflict peace-building office, following UNMOT’s withdrawal on 15 May, and had emphasized the value of the United Nations job creation projects, which had shifted attitudes from confrontation to reconciliation.  The Government had also stressed the need to reduce the strength of the armed forces through demobilization programmes.

     The representative of the Russian Federation shared the view that the parliamentary elections had been a landmark event and that the overall campaign had been positive.  A number of violations had occurred, but reproaching Tajikistan was unjustified.  The lofty yardstick of international democratic standards could not be used to measure the first free elections in the country’s history.  What the international community had witnessed in Tajikistan would serve as a positive example of United Nations peacekeeping efforts.  A continued United Nations presence there, through the establishment of an office, would promote post-conflict peace-building.

     Similarly, the representative of Ukraine said the parliamentary elections had been a crucial event and marked the last major step in the transitional period.  Peaceful reconciliation had become possible through the political will and tireless efforts of the parties, the country President and the international community.  Indeed, the military opposition had sought, by political means, to take its place in society and the political structures of the country.  That choice would resonate positively throughout the entire Central Asian region.

     Council President Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh), speaking in his national capacity, said that consolidation of the peace process would require the reintegration of ex-combatants into society.  That priority should not be viewed as a sequential event following their disarmament:  the two processes were intertwined.  Also, more projects geared towards job creation should be undertaken and funding should be made available for them.

     The representatives of the United States, Namibia, France, China, Argentina, United Kingdom, Jamaica, Malaysia, Tunisia, and the Netherlands also made statements this afternoon.

     The meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and adjourned at 4:20 p.m.

    Council Work Programme

     When the Security Council met this afternoon to discuss the situation in Tajikistan and along the Tajik-Afghan border, it had before it an interim report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Tajikistan (document S/2000/214), submitted pursuant to Council resolution 1274 of 12 November 1999.  It relates developments in Tajikistan and the activities of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) since the last report of 4 November 1999, covers details of the first multiparty election, and describes the reintegration of former opposition fighters.

     According to the report, the Secretary-General intends to withdraw UNMOT when its mandate expires on 15 May, since, with the holding of the first multi-party parliamentary election in Tajikistan, the transition period envisaged in the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan (document S/1997/510) is coming to a close, as is the process that UNMOT was set up to support.  This marks a significant achievement.  The military observers are gradually being drawn down.

     The report states that, after years of fighting, the transition had been difficult and threatened by several serious crises.  Nevertheless, the Tajik parties managed to overcome the obstacles and put their country on the path to national reconciliation and democracy.  The United Nations had played an important part in this success.  The General Agreement had been reached under its auspices and with its active involvement, and UNMOT, supported by the Contact Group of Guarantor States and International Organizations, had been instrumental in the implementation of its provisions.

     While there is cause for satisfaction, the report continues, there can be no doubt that the move towards a stable democracy has only just begun, and that it is important for the international community to stay engaged.  Also, too many men are still under arms for a country that is at peace, and more should be encouraged and helped to return to civilian life.  In this regard, much can be achieved with relatively modest means.

     The Secretary-General is currently consulting with the Government of Tajikistan about a possible role for the United Nations in the period of post- conflict peace building and consolidation.  He will inform the Council about the outcome of those consultations.

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