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                                        Volume. 12114
Iran calls on UN to step up efforts to repatriate Afghan refugees
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TEHRAN - The Iranian deputy ambassador to the United Nations has called on the UN to step up efforts to facilitate a sustainable repatriation of Afghan refugees and their full rehabilitation and reintegration in their homeland. 
 
Ambassador Eshaq Ale-Habib made the remarks in a speech before the General Assembly during a meeting about the situation in Afghanistan in New York on Tuesday. 
 
Following are excerpts of the text of Ale-Habib’s speech:   
 
There have been significant political developments in Afghanistan during the past year. One important political development is the gradual drawdown of foreign forces. As foreign forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, our efforts should focus on providing assistance and helping Afghanistan in its Afghan-led transition to a stable country. We need concerted international and regional support aimed at laying the foundations of sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan. Progress on security and development is the key for peace, progress, and stability in Afghanistan. We need accelerated progress on economic cooperation that is simultaneous with political, security, and other confidence-building measures in order to ensure peace and stability for Afghanistan and through it for the entire region.
 The withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan should be genuine. Obviously, the experience of the last decades of foreign military presence in Afghanistan has taught the lesson that the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be resolved by military means. The continued presence of these forces, under any excuse or pretext, would only add to the instability and violence. The violence in Afghanistan has had a drastic effect on the security and well-being of its citizens. Such violence is not caused just by armed extremists; rather a growing number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan are caused by NATO operations. All sides should strictly abide by international humanitarian law and relevant international law and effectively protect civilians. Afghanistan is passing through an important phase in its history. The Afghan people are inspired by the prospect of a future free from violence and war. This nation deserves our help in taking full charge of its destiny.
 Another challenge for Afghanistan is the increase in the cultivation of narcotic drugs. According to the 2012 Afghan Opium Survey released in early November, total opium poppy cultivation has increased by 18 percent, now covering 154,000 hectares, up from 131,000 hectares in 2011. UNOCD warns that the rise in cultivation came despite the Afghan government's latest increase in efforts to destroy poppy fields and help farmers find alternative sources of income. At the same time, the report indicates that the prices for opium remained relatively high throughout 2012 at $196 per kilogram. This provides a strong incentive for farmers to expand their poppy cultivation. This Survey sends a strong message that the international community should not remain at ease in the face of this problem. A strong commitment is needed from both Afghan and international partners to curb the menace of drug cultivation and drug trafficking that breeds extremism. In that regard, we commend the initiatives fighting drugs with the help of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. We welcome the triangular initiative between Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan within the framework of the region’s counter-narcotics effort. We also welcomed the Regional Ministerial Conference on Counter-Narcotics held in Islamabad on the 12 & 13 of November 2012 aimed at enhancing regional cooperation to counter narcotics. Taking into account those efforts what remains is to implement these measures in order to alleviate the serious concerns of neighboring countries, countries en route of drug trafficking and the countries of destination.
 
The issue of refugees is also a challenge not only for Afghanistan, but for neighboring states as well as the international community. Additional efforts must be undertaken in order to repatriate refugees and ensure that they are reintegrated into Afghan society. In this regard, we welcomed the International Conference on the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees held in Geneva in May 2012 and the Joint Communique issued thereafter, aimed at increased sustainability of returns and continued support for host countries.  At present, more than 1 million Afghan refugees are registered in Iran, while an even greater number of unregistered Afghans are also living in our country. Afghan nationals have continued to enjoy Iran’s educational and welfare facilities among others and to benefit from the same subsidies that our own people receive. We urge again the international community, to continue to strengthen and expedite its efforts in creating the conditions conducive for the sustainable repatriation of refugees and their full rehabilitation and reintegration in their homeland.
 
The Istanbul conference and the recent series of high-level meetings have strengthened the long-term partnership between Afghanistan and neighboring countries as well as international partners. The process was further crystallized at the Heart of Asia ministerial conference in Kabul in June this year, with the prioritization of confidence-building measures. These meetings provided an opportunity to exchange views on how to move further on creating a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. We hope that the confidence building mechanism devised in the conference and its follow up meetings will lead to results-oriented cooperation among all the regional countries in developing the infrastructure in line with the wishes of the Afghan people and pave the way for a long cherished goal of self-reliance and more economic prosperity for Afghanistan. The United Nations has a key role in coordinating international and regional efforts in this regard and enjoys our full support.
 
We believe that capacity-building for Afghan institutions must remain at the heart of international efforts in order to enable the government of Afghanistan to exercise its sovereign authority in all its functions. We are confident that more coherent and coordinated regional efforts and the fulfillment of the obligations undertaken by international stake holders will contribute to ensuring the sustainable development of Afghanistan and the prosperity of its people. Building a sustainable, stable Afghanistan is crucial, not only for the future of the Afghan people, but also for peace and stability in the region, Asia, and the world.
 The Islamic Republic of Iran has always firmly supported Afghanistan in its efforts to maintain its national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and to realize enduring peace and stability. We hope that the international community will adhere to the principle of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process and continue to support the government and the people of Afghanistan in their efforts towards peace and reconstruction and to realize, at an early date, the objective of an Afghanistan governed by Afghans.
 

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