UN Chief appoints French diplomat Jean Arnault as Personal Envoy on Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 18 (APP): United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Jean Arnault, a veteran French diplomat, as his personal envoy on Afghanistan and regional issues to help find a solution to the nearly two-decade-old conflict, his spokesman announced Wednesday night.

Arnault, 70, who has over 30 years of experience in international diplomacy, was Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) from 2004 to 2006, where he was also Deputy in 2002-2003.

“The Secretary-General has asked Mr Arnault to assist in the achievement of a political solution to the conflict, working closely with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and regional partners,” Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

“Given the importance of regional cooperation in support to Afghanistan, the Personal Envoy will seek to advance the good neighbourly relations contributing to peace in the country,” the spokesman said in response to a question.

Arnault’s appointment, he said, reflects the continued commitment by the United Nations to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan. It comes a day before Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, a delegation of top Afghan officials and opposition leaders and Taliban negotiators meet in Moscow in an effort to break the stalled peace talk.

US special envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has been trying to build up support for a proposal that includes an interim government and ceasefire, as US President Joe Biden’s administration reviews plans for Afghanistan ahead of a May 1 troop withdrawal deadline agreed with the Taliban by the Trump administration last November.

The Moscow gathering will be followed by a meeting of regional players in the first week of April in Turkey and a summit that Khalilzad has asked the United Nations to organize, on the lines of the 2001 conference in Bonn.

“As concerns the proposals for meetings in various formats, the Secretary-General remains ready to support initiatives for advancing the Afghanistan peace negotiations,” Dujarric, the UN spokesman, said. “The concurrence of the parties will underpin any progress toward a political settlement.”

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