Secretary of State George Shultz and his counterparts from the Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed an international agreement Thrusday providing for withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Afghanistan by Feb. 15.
The agreement did not, however, provide for any truce or cease-fire between warring Afghan factions or an end to major power supplies of weapons.After it was signed, both Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze declared their countries would continue respective arms shipments to Afghan rebels and the Kabul government.
A senior American official described the accords as "a fig leaf to cover the Soviet pullout, something they were going to do anyway."
In a brief statement opening the ceremony, U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar thanked U.N. mediator Diego Cordovez of Ecuador and the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan for their "tireless efforts" during six years of talks.
"The documents which have just been signed constitute a most significant achievement," Perez de Cuellar said. "They represent a major stride in the effort to bring peace to Afghanistan and a sure reprieve for its people. The challenge facing the people of Afghanistan is great, but it can and must be met by them alone."
Deposed Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah of Afghanistan, who has lived in Rome since he was ousted in 1973, said, "It is hoped that this accord will pave the way for the withdrawal of the Soviet armed forces from Afghanistan," and he called for the convening of an Afghan assembly called a "Loya Jirga" to make national decisions.
Perez de Cuellar, who presided over the ceremony, also thanked the United States and Soviet Union for agreeing to be co-guarantors of the agreement.
The ministers then began signing the pact, which outlines four key provisions and is written in four languages.
Earlier Thursday before the signing ceremony in the ornate Council Chamber of the U.N.'s Palais des Nations, Shultz called the settlement "a historic agreement."
"This agreement will formalize the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, a goal the world has sought for many years," Shultz said in his arrival statement at Geneva's Cointrin airport.
"It will return to Afghans the right to determine their own future on the basis of their own political ideas and traditions," he said. "Afghans are determined to defend their land from foreign intervention. They have earned their independence. Let us help them realize it."
The agreement ran 36 double-spaced pages and was written in English, Russian, the Pakistani language Urdu and Pushtu, spoken in Afghanistan.
It committed Moscow, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979, to begin withdrawing its 115,000 troops on May 15, pull half of them out by Aug. 15 and complete withdrawal by Feb. 15.
The settlement fails, however, to provide for a cease-fire between pro-Soviet and U.S.-backed Moslem factions in Afghanistan, and both the superpowers said in advance they would continue to supply arms to the factions they back.
Other provisions of the pact outline Afghan-Pakistani pledges of non-interference and non-intervention, U.S.-Soviet guarantees, the voluntary return of millions of Afghan refugees and procedures for U.N. monitoring.
Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who also hailed the agreement as "historic," as well as Afghan Foreign Minister Abdul Weakil and Pakistani Minister of State Zain Noorani held separate news conferences after the signing.
Shultz and Shevardnadze scheduled a private bilateral meeting before flying home.
Shevardnadze arrived Wednesday night and the Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministers have been in Geneva since March 2 for the final round of indirect, U.N.-mediated talks. Perez de Cuellar, who presided at the ceremony but did not sign the settlement, arrived shortly before Shultz.
The Afghanistan accord commits Moscow to withdraw its troops in nine months without even a brief truce in what observers considered a face-saving framework for retreat without peace for war-torn Afghanistan.
The agreement has been rejected out of hand by Afghan Mujahideen resistance groups, which vowed to keep fighting the pro-Soviet regime.