24 June - Members of the Security Council wrapped up their visit to Afghanistan today, voicing their continued support for the country's efforts to build a lasting peace and stressing the need for free and fair elections, improved governance and the upholding of human rights.

“During our contacts we reiterated the United Nations Security Council's support and enduring commitment to the people of Afghanistan and its Government in furthering peace, development and stability,” Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan of Turkey, who led the mission, told a news conference in Kabul.

The visit comes during an important period, Mr. Apakan noted, taking place as it did soon after the Consultative Peace Jirga held in early June and before the Kabul Conference, slated for 20 July.

The Government is expected to present an Afghan-led plan for improving development, governance and security at the July gathering, which will be co-chaired by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and is a follow-up to the London Conference held in January.

During their visit, Council members were also briefed on various challenges related to the legislative polls scheduled for 18 September. The elections are the first to be completely run by Afghan institutions and the preliminary list of candidates contains the names of more than 400 women.

“Free and fair elections are necessary,” said Mr. Apakan, adding that the Council welcomed the strong participation of women candidates.

He said the delegation encouraged the Afghan authorities to further their efforts to uphold the rule of law and human rights, in particular the rights of women and children.

It also stressed the importance of combating the narcotics industry and trade, as well as the importance of regional cooperation in political, security and economic areas.

While in Kabul the 15-member body held talks with senior Government officials, including President Hamid Karzai and members of his cabinet, as well as with representatives of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC).

Council members also met with the main international stakeholders, including UN agencies, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union.

The four-day mission also included a visit to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, where the delegation met with local authorities, UN staff and Afghan returnees.

A separate UN team has been in Kabul this month to examine the issue of “updating” the Consolidated List of individuals and entities subject to UN sanctions in connection with Al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Individuals on the list, which include 137 Afghan nationals, are subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo imposed under Council resolution 1267 of 1999, and related resolutions, by which all UN Member States are required to impose sanctions on Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and those associated with them.

Mr. Apakan noted that the Council's 1267 Committee is in the process of finalizing its review of the list, which is conducted on a case-by-case basis.

In January of this year, the Committee approved the de-listing of five men who held senior positions within the Taliban regime following a review of the list.