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UN Chief Urges Tackling 'Discrimination' In Central Asia, Afghanistan

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (right) speaks while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres looks during a Security Council meeting in New York on January 18.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told a meeting on Central Asia and Afghanistan that addressing "inequality, exclusion, and discrimination" is crucial to stemming terrorism and extremism.

Guterres made the comments at a January 19 UN Security Council meeting on partnership in the region, commending Central Asian nations for boosting security and development cooperation with Afghanistan.

The meeting was convened by Kazakhstan, which currently holds the rotating Security Council presidency.

"During my visit to Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan last June, I was encouraged to see new bilateral and regional connections and better regional dynamics," Guterres said, according to a transcript released by his office.

He added that while "sustainable development is a fundamental end in itself," such development should be "inclusive."

"Only by addressing the root causes of crisis, including inequality, exclusion, and discrimination, will we build peaceful societies resilient to terrorism and violent extremism," he said.

International rights groups have accused Western nations of failing to sufficiently confront rights abuses by Central Asian governments for strategic purposes related to energy and security.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan told the meeting that U.S. President Donald Trump's administration expects Kabul to continue down the path of reform and root out corruption.

He said Washington would not allow Afghanistan to serve as a "safe haven" for terrorists like it had before the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

In August, Trump announced his strategy for ending the nearly two-decade-long war in Afghanistan. He said it would include deploying more U.S. troops to the country and intensifying pressure on neighboring Pakistan not to harbor terrorists.

Islamabad has reacted angrily to Trump's accusation that it is not doing enough to combat terrorism.