UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a US-proposed resolution that facilitates humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which is on the verge of economic collapse, while keeping funds out of Taliban hands.
The resolution is a first step by the UN after months of wrangling over how to avert a humanitarian catastrophe amid economic meltdown in Afghanistan since the Taliban swept back to power in mid-August.
Since then, billions of dollars in aid and assets have been frozen by the West in what the UN has described as an "unprecedented fiscal shock" to the aid-dependent Afghan economy, and the nation is in the middle of a bitter winter.
For months now, observers have been warning that millions face a choice between starvation or migration during a combined food, fuel and cash crisis.
The Security Council resolution states that "payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources, and the provision of goods and services necessary to ensure the timely delivery of such assistance or to support such activities are permitted."
Such assistance is "not a violation" of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban, whose regime is not yet recognized by the international community, it adds.
An earlier US resolution had sought to authorize case-by-case exemptions to sanctions, but that was blocked by veto-wielding permanent Security Council members China and Russia.
"Humanitarian aid and life-saving assistance must be able to reach the Afghan people without any hindrance," China's UN Ambassador, Zhang Jun, said in a tweet Monday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday applauded Pakistan for hosting the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, saying the gathering reflected the international community’s collective resolve to help the people of Afghanistan.
The summit was held in Islamabad on Sunday with a focus on the looming economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan after the Taliban returned to power. The OIC conference was convened to devise a way to help the Afghan people amid a gradual economic meltdown.
The decision to limit the scope of the resolution to one year, which was not part of the first draft, aims to satisfy Washington's European allies, who, like India, had criticized the absence of any deadline and called for strict control over the destination of aid.
"If there is evidence that the exemption is being abused or that money is reaching sanctioned individuals, it is possible to reverse it," a diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity earlier this week.
In Afghanistan, aid workers may be involved in financial transactions with ministries headed by sanctioned individuals. The resolution ensures that the aid workers are not violating sanctions.
The text also includes monitoring of the destination of aid, as well as a UN report on the functioning of the assistance every six months.
UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, emphasized the urgent "need for liquidity and stabilization of the banking system" on Sunday at a ministerial meeting in neighboring Pakistan.
He argued it was "not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organizations to respond."
After the Taliban returned to power, the US froze nearly $9.5 billion from the Afghan central bank and the World Bank also suspended aid to Kabul.
On Wednesday, Russia called for the West to unfreeze such assets.
The World Bank announced on December 10 that it would provide $280 million in humanitarian aid to UNICEF and the World Food Programme by the end of December, to be distributed in Afghanistan.