Monday, December 22, 2014

Intervention BY H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations 12th Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Landlocked Developing Countries

Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, my delegation appreciates the theme for this year’s Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Landlocked Developing Countries: “Building Genuine Partnerships for Overcoming Impacts of Landlockedeness in the context of Sustainable Development”. We believe that overcoming the challenge of landlockedness is very much reliant on the spirit of partnership and cooperation, in particular between landlocked and transit developing countries, which are crucial to the achievement of our sustainable development objectives.

Towards building and enhancing genuine partnerships for overcoming the impacts of landlockness, regional cooperation is essential and provides opportunities to optimally utilize the resources of the region for the benefit of all the countries and will bring down all barriers and create borders with human face. Afghanistan is part of many regional and sub-regional initiatives, programs and processes and has the potential to contribute more in better connectivity of the entire region.

The “Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan” launched on 2 November 2011 to enhance stability and regional cooperation between Afghanistan and 15 participating countries, among them 5 are Landlocked Developing Countries. There are 21 confidence-building measures (CBMs) under the Istanbul process that are economic in nature (for example, trade, transport infrastructure, energy, water management, agriculture, and private investment). For each of these priority CBMs, a participating country has the leading role.

Afghanistan, by availing its unique geographic position, is now transforming from a landlocked to a land-linked country by connecting energy rich Central Asia to the energy deficient South Asia. Improved transportation links via the development of road corridors to the south and energy exports from landlocked Central Asian countries to the South Asia via Afghanistan would offer alternative means of trade flows and benefit the entire region.

There are a number of sub-regional transit, transport and energy projects under development via Afghanistan, such as Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, CASA 1000 for electricity supply from Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan and more recently, a trilateral agreement on railway project between Tajikistan-Afghanistan and Turkmenistan has been signed between the three neighboring countries.

In addition to the geographical handicaps and remoteness to world markets, high transport costs affect the competitiveness margin of landlocked developing countries, in particular least developed countries among them and thereby affect trade volume. There is a clear connection between distance and transport costs. As per the World Bank’s data, Afghanistan faces highest cost of exporting at $3545 per container in 2012 compared to $2230 for Bhutan and $1960 for Nepal. In this context, lowering of trade and transit costs and time among the landlocked countries would enhance the pace of economic development; significantly increase incomes, employment and consumption in the region leading to reduction of incidence of poverty levels that will help LLDCs to diminish their disadvantage, and remain better connected to the world.

Foreign trade between Afghanistan and its neighbors is very important and can contribute to economic growth and jobs creation even if long distance trade transiting through Afghanistan and neighbors takes longer to develop. Despite signing the new Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit-Trade Agreement (APTTA) in July 2010, Afghanistan seeks alternative transit routes to have access to seaports, inter alia through Chabahar in Iran.  Membership of Afghanistan to the Transport Corridor of Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) is one of our priorities that require support of all participating countries.

Mr. Chairman,

After decades, the reactivation of Afghanistan in TIR convention has recently been completed and TIR system was officially launched in Afghanistan on 4th September 2013. On the other hand, our membership to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UN-CLOS) is under consideration within the government, aiming to benefit from the fundamental rights, including freedom of transit under the framework of the convention.

Substantial progress has been achieved in the accession process of Afghanistan to the World Trade Organization and the government of Afghanistan is willing to conclude this process by the end of 2014.

Afghanistan fully supports the commitment of the landlocked countries to accelerate the implementation of the Almaty Program of Action envisaged in the Vientiane Consensus through effective and genuine partnerships between landlocked and transit countries and their development partners, as well as between the public and private sectors at national, regional and global levels.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.