EU deeply concerned at reports of further fighting in Afghanistan
Thu 16 Apr 98 - 13:13 GMT
LONDON, April 16 (AFP) - The European Union on Thursday said it was "deeply concerned" at reports of preparations for further fighting in Afghanistan this spring.
The EU rotating presidency, currently chaired by Britain, made the statement after reports that both the Taliban and the forces of ex-government defence minister Ahmad Shah Masood were reinforcing the frontline for possible spring offenses after the winter thaw.
The EU made particular mention of the "supply of arms from outside Afghanistan", without naming any specific country.
"The European Union recalls its appeal to Afghanistan's neighbouring states to end the supply of weapons, fuel and other materials for military use and to exercise their influence in a positive and constructive manner," it said.
The statement added: "The food blockade on central Afghanistan, which reportedly claimed many lives, is also a matter of grief."
It listed the problems created by the civil war as the "serious humanitarian crisis, widespread breaches of international law and violations of human rights, including discrimination against women and girls, devastation of war stricken areas, trauma suffered by refugees ... the traffiking and abuse of drugs, and the harboring and export of terrorism.
The war "threatens the stability and economic development of the whole region," said the EU.
It urged all parties to work on an immediate ceasefire and "engage in a serious effort to get a peace process underway."
Amid fears of an outbreak of large-scale fighting in the coming weeks, the international community has stepped up efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the long running factional conflict.
United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is in Iran for talks with Iranian authorities, after meetings with Taliban officials in Kabul and intensive consultations with the Pakistani government in Islamabad.
And on Friday the United States, underlining its interest in a peaceful solution to the Afghan civil war, is sending its UN ambassador Bill Richardson to the region for talks with Taliban officials and opponents -- the highest level visit by a US official for 20 years.