Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Statement by H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the 12th Summit Meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

 

Your Excellency President Ilham Heydar Oglu Aliyev,

 

Excellencies Heads of state and governments,

 

Distinguished delegates,

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to address the 12th Summit Meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in the beautiful city of Baku. I would like to thank Turkey, particularly my brother, H.E. Prime Minister Rajib Tayb Urgoghan for the effective chairmanship of the ECO summit in the past two years.

At the outset, allow me to congratulate my brother, H.E. President Ilham Aliyev on his election as the Chairman of the summit and to express my gratitude and that of my delegation to the people of Azerbaijan for the warm and generous hospitality extended to us.

 

Also, I thank the Secretariat of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and its working groups for their hard work in preparing the required documents and proposals that have facilitated the discussions among the member states.

 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

Historically, geographically as well as culturally, Afghanistan remains an inseparable member of the two regions, Central Asia and the South Asia. With the peoples of the ECO member states, we enjoy strong and deep historical and cultural ties. In other words, together, we have inherited a great culture and civilization that remain as shared values to bond us perpetually.

 

I firmly believe that the region to which ECO member states belong is home to rich and ample resources and available opportunities that if used properly, can overcome most of the current problems. Our region has the potential to turn into a hub of inclusive cooperation and integration. The young, dynamic and hard working population, plus the abundance in natural resources have provided the potential for some countries to progress. However, the current trend of globalization makes it even more compelling that we take regional integration to its optimal level.

 

Building and strengthening regional cooperation remains among the top priorities of our foreign policies. The conferences held in Kabul, New Delhi, Islamabad, Istanbul, Dushanbe and the more recently in Istanbul and Kabul under “Heart of Asia”, demonstrate Afghanistan’s resolute determination to pursue stronger regional cooperation.

 

I believe implementing regional economic and transit projects can be the most practical measures to achieve regional integration. It was in line with this vision that the RECCA-V held this March in Dushanbe discussed 17 projects and priorities for stronger regional cooperation. To achieve the goals of inter-regional and international trade growth, Afghanistan and its neighbors will make every effort to implement transit infrastructures such as roads and railroads, and to provide a conducive mutual environment for increased investment, stronger trade and expanded communications to the regional water ports and to enhance stronger cultural and people-to people contacts.

To promote and facilitate stronger regional cooperation, Afghanistan is working with all relevant countries to finalize major regional projects such as TAPI gaz pipeline and the CASA-1000 energy projects.

 

Furthermore, Afghanistan is making all efforts to realize the land connectivity projects that link east to west of the country and to further extend the existing roads. The railway from Uzbekistan to Hiratan – Mazar-e-Sharif is currently in use. Afghanistan is working to extend the Herat railway that connects west and north-east of the country to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and to Pakistan via Kandahar through the Chaman border in the south..

 

Given the fact that the volume of investment in the ECO region is still much lower than the needs and the available potential, Afghanistan believes that the ECO Member countries need to intensify their actions to promote mutual investment and increased private sector development through the ECO Trade and Development Bank.

 

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen!

I believe, the ECO member countries are facing common threats and problems, on top of which lies terrorism. The vile attempt on the life of Malala Yousufzai is one of thousands of examples that clearly shows no one can be safe from the threat of terrorism. This menace has no mercy even on our children and their quest for education. As an obvious act of terror, this ruthless attack can be a serious warning to all of us. Let’s be honest in acknowledging that terrorism enjoys safe havens and facilities in our region and can not be defeated without sincere and joint effort by all of us. In addition to the terrorist groups active in Afghanistan, the international terrorist organizations such as Alqaeda, Uzbekistan Islamic Movement (UIM), Tahreek Taliban of Pakistan (TTP), the East Turkistan Movement and Chechen terrorists have presence in our region, and have been receiving training to carry out destructive acts for several years now.

 

With countless sacrifices, Afghan forces have also been confronting terrorists that are intent upon using our territory to cross into some of the Central Asian States and even Russia and China. These groups, while trying to encroach on our neighboring countries, have attacked Afghan forces, our political leaders, our scholars and civilians,  and have acted to destroy our schools, public and private property.

Afghanistan has done everything in its power to prevent such attempts. Our neighbors should recognize and respect our sacrifices especially in fighting the central Asian extremists. Meanwhile, it is also legitimate to expect our neighbors to contain, on their part, the entry of terrorists into our soil and commit all resources to dismantling the terrorists’ training and equipping facilities on their soil. Afghanistan expects an earnest cooperation in this regard.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Narcotics and organized crimes are among the major problems our region is facing. It would be very naive to see this issue as restricted to one country. Afghan farmers are at the receiving end of the illicit business. Afghans are paying the price by suffering immense sacrifices in the counternarcotics war and their legitimate economy is enduring a great deal of damage. However, the real profits go to the international smuggling networks and their supporters. The narcotics issue is a complex international problem. It is a problem that includes the whole criminal chain of cultivation, production and supply for consumption in markets.  Therefore, it is imperative that we enhance cooperation on sharing intelligence, coordinating counter narcotics actions on borders and the supply issue of chemical precursors originating from outside Afghanistan. This is the only way to effectively combat this scourge.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished colleagues,

 

Since 2002, Afghanistan has opened a new chapter in its political life. Today more than ever before, our national institutions have gained the ability to serve our people and protect the country. The considerable progress that we have achieved in promoting democracy, public participation in political processes and in economic and social development has benefited all our people.

 

Therefore, it is an integral part of our political life to protect a legitimate political system created by the free will of its people. With the departure in 2014 of foreign troops from Afghanistan, not only would nothing unpredictable take place, but also the security would be better than today, with government and state institutions stronger and more capable.  Today, security has improved considerably in the areas where responsibility has been transitioned to the Afghan government.

 

We hope our borders to be the borders of peace and cooperation, and our country restores its historical role to serve as a land-bridge connecting Central to South Asia and China to the Middle East. The realization of this hope goes in concert with the strategic goals of the ECO organization and I believe every member state agrees with me.

 

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen!

In conclusion, let me once again reaffirm Afghanistan’s commitment to a stronger and more enhanced cooperation within the ECO framework. I wish you all health and prosperity.

 

Thank you very much