Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Informal SAARC Meeting of Foreign Ministers

Statement of H.E. Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of

Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Informal SAARC Meeting of Foreign Ministers Delivered by Mr. Daud Yaar


Mr. Chairman,

Allow me at the outset to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Maldives for its successful stewardship of our organization.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies and colleagues,

Since SAARC’s inception 26 years ago, the organization proved itself as an effective forum for cooperation among its member-states. However, much more have to be done to address the challenges that our region facing and to advance the goals of our association, and realize the vision of a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

Mr. Chairman,

Afghanistan is pursing regional cooperation as the corner-stone for its overall efforts to secure peace, stability and prosperity. In this regard, we are making steady progress on the implementation of a number of key regional projects.

Afghanistan is convinced that increased intra-SAARC economic cooperation is one of the most efficient ways to achieve prosperity in our sub-continent. Unfortunately, the volume of trade among SAARC members has not reached desired levels. This is mainly due to tariff, non-tariff, and para-tariff barriers, which remain unaddressed. We also appeal for special consideration to least developed and land-locked developing member-states within the SAARC community.

Mr. Chairman,

Among the main achievements of SAARC we can name a number of SAARC conventions and agreements on the protection of women and children; combating terrorism, narcotics and organized crime; advancing social and cultural development, and fostering mutual understanding in the region.

Mr. Chairman,

Trans-national threats such as terrorism, extremism, poverty, organized crime and natural disasters, still exist. Terrorism is among the dominant challenges in the region. Terrorism, as a common enemy for all, is part of a complex and sophisticated terror network, responsible for attacks across the region. To fight terrorism, we must reinforce our determination and take steps to free our region from this threat.  We must also focus more on addressing terrorist safe-havens and sanctuaries in the region, which operate as the life-line for terrorist activities. By the same token, success in defeating terrorism will not be achieved without respect for the principles of good-neighborly relations, and a transparent foreign policy. We stress on increased collaboration within the framework of the SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD).

Excellencies,

Widespread poverty and fragile socio-economic conditions are serious challenges that our region faces.  The global financial and economic crisis is yet not over and the recovery is uneven and uncertain. We believe that sustainable development could not be achieved without promotion of trade. To tackle the problem of food security and lagging agriculture development, increased efforts at the national and regional levels are required to address the problem as an integral part of the international development agenda. We believe that achieving food security without strengthening and revitalizing the agriculture sector, including through the empowerment of women and rural populations, small and medium scale farmers, is not possible. By the same token, we should consider launching of efficient poverty eradication programs to meet the SAARC Development Goals (SDG’s).

Mr. Chairman,

Our region is rich with natural resources, to utilize these resources for better prosperity and well-being of all our citizens, closer collaboration, technical and financial assistance, access to and transfer of technology, capacity building and exchange of knowledge and experience should be enhanced.

Natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes and mudslides are becoming more frequent in the SAARC region. Joint efforts are required in order to further strengthen the capacity of member-states to prepare for and respond to disasters. The recent flooding in Pakistan, which caused tremendous human loss and destruction of property, is a clear example of the dangers that we all face.   I take this opportunity to restate the condolences and sympathies of the people and government of Afghanistan to our Pakistani brothers and sisters over the loss of life resulting from this tragic disaster.

Mr. Chairman,

Just two-days ago we witnessed the convening of the UN High Level Meeting on Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases held at the United Nation Headquarters in New York and the adoption of its political declaration. In this regard, we call on SAARC members to strengthening cooperation among themselves in the area of public health. SAARC members as well should coordinate their policies for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which will be held in Brazil in 2012. We also emphasize on the importance of sustainable forest management for sustainable development and poverty eradication.

In conclusion, let me repeat Afghanistan’s strong commitment to advancing the goals of our association.

Thank You!

Remarks by H.E. Foreign Minister Rassoul at the New Silk Road Ministerial Meeting

Distinguished Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to join you all here today. I wish to thank Foreign Minister Westerwelle for hosting this important meeting and Secretary Clinton for joining us in co-chairing our discussion.  I also express gratitude to all other colleagues and participants for being here today.
Looking around, I see some of Afghanistan’s closest friends; friends that have stood by us during difficult times, and helped us come this far, to the point where we have consolidated our state institutions, enabled democracy to take root, improved the lives of our people; and begun taking security responsibility on our own.

As we transition to Afghan ownership, coinciding with a drawdown of international forces, we are working to lay the foundation for a fully sovereign, self-reliant and effective Afghan state.

We all know that regional economic cooperation offers the best chance to bring peace, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan, and our region. More needs to be done to create a strong network of economic and trade activities across the wider region, which will help alleviate poverty, advance socio-economic development, and provide a sound basis for a more peaceful and prosperous region.

We are working to regain our historic role as a land-bridge connecting South and Central Asia with the Middle East. We are convinced that the vision of a New Silk Road holds the promise of achieving an economically vibrant regional order, spanning across borders and continents. Afghanistan is pursuing this vision with urgency. In this connection, together with our regional partners, we are making important headway on a number of important projects, each of which will serve to benefit our common goals. These include the TAPI pipeline project, for transfer of energy and the CASA 1000 energy-trading project.

Additionally, we are investing in the expansion of our transportation sector, and have conducted a comprehensive overhaul of our national legislation concerning trade and transit to meet our full potential as an economic asset for our region. As we speak, important work is underway in the construction of our national ring road, linking us with neighboring countries. Despite the continued efforts of terrorists to disrupt our development agenda, we have constructed close to 10,000 kilometers of roads across the country. At the same time, the implementation of our national railway scheme is resolutely apace.

Our region is filled with vast amounts of untapped natural resources. And, notwithstanding our challenges, Afghanistan is no exception. Our mineral deposits are among the largest supply in the world, and have the potential to become the backbone of our economy. As President Karzai stated at the international Kabul Conference, “these resources are real and very substantial…and if properly harnessed, these assets make our state-building affordable.” We will make the best of these resources; to strengthen our economy; to attract foreign investment; to put our people to work; and to help achieve stability in our region.
We are also focusing on a number of bilateral, regional, and multi-lateral trade and transit agreements, with countries in the region, and other partners, each of which will benefit prosperity in our region.  More recently, in June of this year, following decades of stalemate and delay, we signed, in your presence, Secretary Clinton, the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement with Pakistan. We are convinced that this historic agreement will have an enormous impact on our bilateral trade. It will also help facilitate increased trade among regional countries.
Our goal is to achieve an Afghan economy whose growth is based on trade, private enterprise and investment. To this end, we have upgraded and modernized our national laws to eliminate barriers constraining movement of goods and peoples; to promote foreign and direct investment; to root out financial mismanagement wherever it may occur, to ensure transparency and efficiency in our banking system; and to encourage the creation of new and flourishing businesses.

We are also working to strengthen regional cooperation within the framework of various regional organizations and initiatives, including the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, (SAARC), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC).

In that connection, I wish to underscore important progress being made within the framework of the (RECCA) initiative, the fourth round of which took place last November in Istanbul, building on the success of the three previous conferences held in Kabul, New Delhi, and Islamabad. In this connection, we look forward to the 5th round in Tajikistan. Through RECCA, and other initiatives, key achievements have been made in a number of important areas, including trade, connectivity, border management and energy and agricultural cooperation. The Center for Regional Cooperation at the Afghan Foreign Ministry is doing important work for effective follow-up of relevant projects.

The upcoming Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan will be a milestone in mapping out a new framework for regional cooperation, aimed at achieving a prosperous Afghanistan and region. We thank the Government of Turkey for hosting this important initiative.

Before concluding, I want to convey our gratitude to the international community, those in our region and beyond, for your continued support to a peaceful, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. I also take the opportunity to reiterate our conviction that effective regional cooperation and the re-emergence of the Silk Road are vital for peace, security and stability in our region. Afghanistan fully endorses this important initiative as an important part of our comprehensive efforts to rebuild our country, and strengthen regional economic cooperation. We stand ready to do our part in seeing through its implementation.
And I convey a special thanks to you, Secretary Clinton, for your personal commitment and dedication to seeing a workable and effective strategy take shape for peace, security and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

I Thank You.

Afghanistan and the International Community Discuss Reintegration After Afghan Leader’s Assassination

On 22 September, The Working Group on Reintegration, established under the International Contact Group (ICG) met in New York in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly week. The meeting was chaired by Afghan Ambassador Dr Tanin and co-chaired by UK SRAP Sedwill and Japanese SRAP Yamamoto. Representatives from 19 countries and of the UN and OIC participated in the session.

The group held one minute’s silence to commemorate the life of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Chairman of the Afghanistan Peace Council, and the valuable contribution that he had made to the pursuit of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The group condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack which had resulted in his death. The group expressed their deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the victims and to their families, as well as to the people and Government of Afghanistan. The group also extended their support and best wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr Stanekzai, the Head of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme, who was injured in the attack.

The group reaffirmed their commitment to work together in support of the goals for which Professor Rabbani had worked tirelessly. The important work of the High Peace Council in helping bring peace and reconciliation to Afghanistan will continue. Desperate acts of terrorism will not stop the Afghan people from working towards a peaceful future. At this time, it is important that all of Afghanistan’s leaders stand together in solidarity in the face of such attacks and demonstrate their resolve to work in support of peace, reconciliation and national unity. The group reaffirmed their commitment to the Afghan government’s programmes to reintegrate all those insurgents who are verifiably willing to renounce violence and terrorism and respect the Afghan Constitution, noting the need to support to their families in order to facilitate this.

The group welcomed the progress in the first year of APRP in reintegrating insurgents under the leadership of the High Peace Council and the Government of Afghanistan, noting the importance of political outreach and conflict resolution to extending the impact of the programme throughout the country and to resolving the plight of refugees. The group underlined the importance of close coordination between local civilian officials, the local security forces and PRTs. The group emphasized the need to secure sustainable and flexible funding for the programme.

The Afghan Government and the ICG Working Group welcomed the OIC’s initiative to convene a conference of ulema (religious scholars), as Professor Rabbani had supported. The group highlighted the importance of discussing all these issues further at the Istanbul, Astana and Bonn Conferences, and renewed their commitments to the reintegration process and the long-term stability and development of Afghanistan.