Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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.