Iran welcomes ICRC presence to help Afghan civilians
04-10-2001 News Release 01/37
Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have reached an agreement opening the way to an ICRC operational presence in the country to facilitate relief activities on behalf of civilians inside Afghanistan. The agreement follows talks in Tehran this week between the ICRC's head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa, Werner Kaspar, and the Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohammad Javad Zarif. A representative of the ICRC also met with officials from the Ministry of the Interior and the President of the Iranian Red Crescent Society.
The ICRC and the Iranian Red Crescent have carried out a survey in Mashhad and the nearby border region to identify possible access roads and local infrastructure and determine the availability of relief goods on the local market. This will be followed in the coming days by the arrival of an ICRC team to open a temporary office and transit facility in Mashhad. Other ICRC staff will remain in the capital to liaise with the Iranian authorities.
The ICRC is currently mobilizing enough food, medicines and other relief supplies to meet the needs of 200,000 Afghan civilians (approximately 40,000 families). These materials will gradually be transported to the organization's Herat office in Afghanistan where ICRC Afghan staff continue their humanitarian work.
In Iran, the ICRC will work closely with the Iranian Red Crescent, which has a strong network of local branches in the border region. With the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the National Society is also gearing up for a p ossible influx of Afghan refugees.
" This support from Iran will allow us to keep our operations running inside Afghanistan and also to be prepared for other possible causes of humanitarian concern that might arise from the crisis " , said Kaspar. " Close cooperation with our Iranian Red Crescent partners will be crucial. " The ICRC is also hard at work in the other countries bordering on Afghanistan: similar operations are being prepared or are already under way in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In addition, the ICRC is making every effort to obtain authorization for its expatriate staff to return to areas inside Afghanistan held by the Taleban.