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UN Security Council condemns Taliban announcement of spring offensive


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United Nations:  The UN Security Council has condemned the announcement by the Taliban of a spring offensive, saying it will only result in more unnecessary suffering and destruction for the Afghan people.

In a press statement on the Taliban Offensive, members of the 15-nation Council said they recognised the Afghan people's strong desire for sustainable peace in Afghanistan. They underscored that calls for more fighting will not advance the goal of making a sustainable peace.

"The members of the Security Council condemned the announcement by the Taliban of a spring offensive, which will only result in more unnecessary suffering and destruction for the Afghan people," the press statement said.

The Taliban on Friday announced their annual spring offensive, which comes as American and Afghan politicians try to negotiate for a peace settlement with the terror group.

Operation Fath, which means "victory" in Arabic, will be conducted across Afghanistan with the aim of "eradicating occupation" and "cleansing our Muslim homeland from invasion and corruption", the Taliban said in a statement.

The annual spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season. "Our Jihadi obligation has not yet ended," the Taliban said.

The members of the Security Council called on all parties to the conflict to seize the opportunity to begin an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that result in a political settlement.

They reiterated the importance of an inclusive Afghan-led and-owned peace process for the long-term prosperity and stability of Afghanistan, and expressed their full support for the Afghan Government's efforts to that end.

The Council members reiterated that, as mandated by the Security Council, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General stand ready to provide their good offices to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, if requested by and in close consultation with the Afghan Government.

A United Nations report released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office in February this year said more civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict last year than at any time since records have been kept.

The UN has said that Afghanistan suffered the highest number of civilians deaths in 2018 due to fighting and violence, a record described as deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.  Fighting and brutal violence claimed exactly 3,804 civilian lives in 2018  including 927 children, another tragic record for the year according to the data carefully collected by the UN. The number represents an increase of 11 per cent compared to 2017. In addition, 7,189 people were injured in 2018, 5 per cent more than in the previous year.

Overall, close to two thirds of the civilian casualties were caused by armed opposition groups, including the Taliban, Islamic State and other undetermined groups. However, civilians were also collateral victims of pro-Government forces (including the Afghan military and international forces) responsible for close to one quarter of all civilian casualties.

The report is the UN's 10th annual report documenting the plight of civilians in the Afghan conflict: in a decade, more than 32,000 civilians have been killed and around 60,000 have been injured. The conflict, which has now gone on for a total of four decades, has claimed thousands and thousands more lives, it said.

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