Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Visits New York
His Excellency Mr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, delivered a statement to the Security Council on Friday at a high-level open debate on “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding.” The debate was convened by Japan, which holds the Presidency of the Council for the month of April, and was chaired by Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Katsuya Okada. Also speaking at the meeting was Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, Ministers from Timor Leste, Sierra Leone, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and was attended by Managing Director of the World Bank Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Minister Rassoul’s statement focused on the peacebuilding project in Afghanistan, which “began immediately after the fall of the Taliban in 2001” and still continues today. He highlighted the magnitude of destruction of the country as a result of decades of conflict, including destruction of the social fabric and the empowerment of networks of criminals, terrorists and drug dealers as well as “opportunistic regional elements” which fed on the instability. Given these challenges, he said, “we have achieved remarkable success,” including in security sector reform and disarmament, in the political structure, in infrastructure building, in governance and services, particularly health and education, and economically.
However, he went on to outline continuing challenges, particularly the security situation and the need for regional cooperation, but also in governance and in coordination. He pointed to several essential elements of the new London strategy, proposed by President Karzai, which are aimed at building peace and stability in Afghanistan and preventing a recurrence of conflict. In particular, he focused on the importance of Afghanization, of national leadership, and of a strong partnership between the international community and Afghanistan. In this regard, he stressed the need for intensified training and responsibility for the Afghan National Security Forces; for increased attention to engaging the Afghan people through institution-building and further efforts to spread good governance and address corruption; for a comprehensive reconciliation and reintegration to engage former combatants and isolate the hard-core terrorists and extremists; and most importantly for a long-term commitment to socioeconomic development to guarantee the stability and sustainability of progress.
During his two-day visit to New York, the Minister of Foreign Affairs also met separately Friday afternoon with H.E. Mr. Ban ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. He had lunch with H.E. Mr. Katsuya Okada, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, followed by a bilateral meeting between the two countries. He also met briefly after his arrival on Thursday evening with Ambassador Susan Rice, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations. In addition, the Minister gave brief interviews to Voice of America TV, to Ariana TV, and to CNN International.
Minister Rassoul arrived in New York on Thursday evening and will return to Europe on Saturday morning, where he will attend an informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Tallin, Estonia, on 22-23 April.