Canada to UN: Send 'Blair-like' envoy to Afghanistan

Foreign ministry officials say UN must promote positive awareness of NATO ops as it does for ME peace process.

September 29, 2007 22:45
1 minute read.

Canada will ask the UN to appoint a special envoy to Afghanistan to raise global awareness of international efforts there, modeled on Quartet representative Tony Blair's work in the Middle East. Canada currently has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan's Kandahar region. Foreign Ministry officials here said the UN should be leading efforts to promote positive awareness of the NATO operation in Afghanistan, as it already does for the Middle East peace process. Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier will begin lobbying for the proposal when he addresses the General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, having already raised the issue with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in meetings last week. Discussions on the initiative were still in the preliminary stages, officials in Ottawa told The Jerusalem Post, and it was not yet known how much weight Ban and Karzai would throw behind the proposal. However, they had responded "positively" so far, and Ban said he would continue to discuss the issue with Karzai and representatives of other UN member states. "The Middle East has Tony Blair, who's doing a very good job, and we believe that at the leadership level in Afghanistan we need someone of a high level and with a clear mandate," Bernier said this week. "The UN mission is already there, and Canada is there under UN mandate, but we believe that the UN itself has to be more active in the coordination process." Norway, Spain and the US are also throwing their support behind a heightened UN profile in Afghanistan. After renewing their participation in the UNIFIL peacekeeping operation in southern Lebanon and organizing the 2,000-strong EU deployment to Chad and the Central African Republic to protect refugees from Darfur, the French have expressed a willingness to help with the Afghan initiative. The UN mission in Afghanistan currently has a staff of more than 1,000 that helps the government implement the "Afghan Compact" - a 2006 deal aimed at promoting stability and development. Meanwhile, a report commissioned by the UN Development Program said this week that despite progress in a number of key areas the country was "not progressing fast enough." "We want to improve the life of the Afghan people," said Bernier. "We want to find a more effective way to do that, and in the fastest possible time."

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