The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by the United States that facilitates humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which is on the verge of economic collapse, while keeping funds out of the Taliban hands.
The resolution passed on Wednesday 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 supports “basic human needs in Afghanistan” and is “not a violation” of sanctions imposed on entities linked to the Taliban, it adds.
The international community has struggled over how to avert a humanitarian catastrophe amid an economic meltdown in Afghanistan since the Taliban swept back to power in mid-August, prompting the US to freeze $9.5bn in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank.
An earlier US resolution had sought to authorise case-by-case exemptions to sanctions, but that was blocked by veto-wielding permanent Security Council members China and Russia.
The Taliban welcomed the resolution on Wednesday.
“We appreciate it (as) it can help Afghanistan’s economic situation,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding he hoped the international community would also “speed up” removal of crippling economic and banking sanctions imposed on entities linked to the group.
But US deputy UN ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis said the aid is “not a blank check for any organisation to disregard its international obligations,” referring to the Taliban.
The US also announced additional steps on Wednesday easing sanctions against the Taliban to allow aid, updating guidance to make clear that exports of goods and cash transfers are allowed as long as they do not go to individuals targeted by US sanctions.
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 criticised the absence of any deadline and called for strict control over the destination of aid.
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.
Speaking from New York, Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey said the resolution is “clarifying that humanitarian aid is exempt from sanctions”.
“This was done with the request of the United States and with support of the entire Council because of concerns that the Afghan economy is on the verge of collapse without cash getting in the country,” she said.
UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, emphasised the urgent “need for liquidity and stabilisation of the banking system” on Sunday at a ministerial meeting in neighbouring Pakistan.
He argued it was “not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organisations to respond.”
After the Taliban returned to power, the US froze nearly $9.5bn 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 $280m in humanitarian aid to UNICEF and the World Food Programme by the end of December, to be distributed in Afghanistan.